Even as he starts filming commercials for his new employers, Larry Conners is suing his ex-employers, KMOV-TV (Channel 4), for age and racial discrimination.
Conners' lawyers filed the suit in St. Louis Civil Court Thursday, alleging the news station paid the 66-year-old white man less than a black female co-worker, restricted his social-media posts and consequently fired him, resulting in lost wages, emotional distress and damage to his reputation.
Conners filed the discrimination suit with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights and received a Notice of Right to Sue -- meaning he can file charges in a civil court -- in October.
(View that lawsuit in full in our previous story: Larry Conners Says KMOV-TV Paid Him Less Than Vickie Newton Due to His Race, Gender)
Conners is also suing for the right to work in television news. His KMOV contract blocks him from reporting on-air for six more months, but a judge ruled he can work in radio.
KMOV's general Manager Mark Pimentel told Daily RFT in May that Conners was fired because he displayed questionable journalistic ethics on Facebook, not because of his age or race.
"Larry's recent termination had nothing whatsoever to do with his age, his prior complaints of discrimination or his leaves of absence," Pimentel said.
In 2010, Conners initiated arbitration against KMOV, saying the company was paying co-prime anchor Vickie Newton, an African American, more than Conners because of his race and gender.
Once that arbitration ended in 2012, Conners claims the station began retaliating against him because of his complaints and his age. Other, less experienced reporters were tapped to cover major breaking stories from the field or anchor prime-time broadcasts over Conners, he says in his previous lawsuit. When he came back from a brief medical leave, he says, he was demoted to covering the 6 p.m. -- not 10 p.m. -- news.
Conners was picked for one major story in April 2012: an interview with President Barack Obama, where Conners asked the president about his travel expenditures.
During that time, Conners also racked up a $85,000 bill when his tax accountant and the federal agency disagreed over deductions. In September 2012 the IRS cancelled Conners' payment plan and put a lien on his Clayton home.
Conners famously connected his IRS issues and the Obama interview on his KMOV-linked Facebook page in May 2013, alleging he was targeted by the IRS at a time when the federal agency was accused of persecuting organizations critical of the president. After he shared those thoughts on social media, KMOV officially fired him.
In his lawsuit with the human-rights commission, Conners says his employers' scrutinizing of his Facebook page and his ultimate dismissal had more to do with his age and history of arbitration than with his actual opinions:
Prior to my complaints about discrimination, salary disparity and the arbitration, I always discussed current news topics on my KMOV Facebook page. However, since my complaints, (general manager Mark) Pimentel and (news director Sean) McLaughlin have severely scrutinized my comments; prevented me from continuing my Facebook discussion about the IRS controversy beginning May 13, 2013; directed me to read a statement on air that was inaccurate; blocked my access to my KMOV Facebook page, Twitter and KMOV email accounts; prohibited me from commenting or publishing anything about the IRS discussion; and terminated my employment with KMOV.
On the same day Conners filed the lawsuit in St. Louis civil court, he also began filming commercials for John Beal Roofing, where he has signed on to be a spokesman.
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